The AmWritingFantasy Podcast: Episode 131 – Jeff Wheeler on Amazon as a Publisher and Writing Fantasy
Jeff Wheeler is a highly successful fantasy author.
His books have been on the Wall Street Journal Bestseller list 5 times and have sold more than 4 million copies. His novels have also been translated into many languages.
Jeff Wheeler joins the Am Writing Fantasy podcast to talk about his road to becoming a full time author, having Amazon as a publisher and his love for fantasy.
Jeff can be found here: https://jeff-wheeler.com/
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Read the full transcript below.
(Please note that it's automatically generated and while the AI is super cool, it isn't perfect. There may be misspellings or incorrect words on occasion).
You're listening to The Am writing Fantasy Podcast. In today's publishing landscape, you can reach fans all over the world. Query letters are a thing of the past. You don't even need in literary agent. There is nothing standing in the way of making a living from writing. Join two best selling authors who have self published more than in 20 books between them now onto the show with your hosts, Autumn Birt and Jesper Schmidt.
Hello I'm Jesper and this is episode 130 of the Am Writing Fantasy podcast, and Autumn is busy editing our novel today, so I brought on an awesome guest instead, and that is Jeff Wheeler. So welcome to The Am Writing Fantasy Podcast. Jeff,
Thank you so good to be here.
Yeah, I've prepared a, just a bit of information about your Jeff. So I can just go through that and then see if I'm missing something. And then, then you can add to it, but basically if anybody listening should not be aware who Jeff is already, then Jeff is a, an author of multiple fantasy series. He has sold over 4 million books and he has also been on the wall street journal bestseller list five times and a year. Novels have been translated into multiple languages as well. And I was on your website earlier today. Jeff and I counted 33 books. So you're quite prolific.
Jeff (1m 24s):
Hmm. Thank you. So it's my, my dream job was to be writing book, so I love it. I do every day. So
Jesper (1m 33s):
Yeah, that's, that's so wonderful. It, especially if you can, a once a week, once you can make a living from it, then that's, that's really nice. But a, but I think I also read on your website that you started out self publishing and then God, a traditional publishing contract a bit later on. So w is that right?
Jeff (1m 51s):
Ah, it is the, of my publishers, not exactly traditional it's Amazon publishing. So after creating the platforms like KDP and things like that, they created their own publishing companies. And I was one of the first authors. They picked up for their fantasy, a line in 47 north.
Jesper (2m 9s):
All right. All right. Cool. Why did you decide that you wanted it to self publishing in the first place, Jeff?
Jeff (2m 18s):
For me, it, it, I'm sure my story's very similar to too many of your listeners and others that I tried, the traditional routes. I tried like getting an agent. I tried doing those things and I even created my own magazine to get a readership going through that, so that when I started a self publishing novels that they would take off and none of that worked. And, and so I kind of put it aside. And then I, I wrote as another series of novels, my mirror would novels and again, tried the route of getting an agent was turned down over 40 times. And I finally said, well, either I either going to try this by myself, because the other way isn't working.
Jeff (3m 1s):
And so I decided to self publish all three of those books simultaneously. So that way readers wouldn't have to wait a everything in between. So I invested the money in there, put it out there, and it happened to come right around the time that Katie P was launching and things like that. So before, when you could only order a print book, a ha having a digital version made things a lot easier. And then suddenly fans started to come in and as my sales increased, that kind of put me on the radar for Amazon publishing. And they reached out to me and asked to acquire that series. So I didn't even, I didn't even get sent a query letter. They, they, they, they sent me a query letter.
Jesper (3m 41s):
That's a position you want to be in, but that, I guess that's a couple of years down the road that it isn't it a, that Amazon reached out about that, or
Jeff (3m 51s):
That's true. I had, I had been trying, it's a break into the market for over a decade. So I I'm an overnight success story that took over 20 years to happen. But again, that story is not unique to me. I know a lot of other authors that tried that route and many of them, ah, even who've self-published, you then got a, a contract with some of the big publishing company. So it's not a unique story, but I love working with Amazon because at their heart, there are a tech company in having grown up in Silicon valley, having worked for Intel, a myself, a I understand in their DNA, I understand how they work in their, their constant search for innovation and creating new ways of, of looking and breaking into markets.
Jeff (4m 34s):
And I thought that they were absolutely my, the kind of model that I was looking for a publisher that was going to be innovative and try to reinvent how publishing works. And boy, have they done that?
Jesper (4m 47s):
Oh yeah, you could definitely say so, but I guess some people might be curious about what, what is Amazon like as a publisher? How is it to work with them?
Jeff (4m 58s):
For me, it's, it's been a delightful experience. And I, again, I know many other authors that have a publishing contracts with the major publishers. So there was a lot of core differences, but to me, those differences or advantages that Amazon has, like, for example, I have a dashboard, I can see my book sales every single day. And I know we get that through KTP as well, but I think we get it in and Amazon publishing as a, as a little bit more robust in terms of the market demographics and things that we have access to. I, I get my royalty statements every month, so I know what I'm going to be making in advance. I get to see those royalty statements. I get to see a brake, you know, broken down a, through all the different markets in the world that, that do that.
Jeff (5m 40s):
A, I earn, you know, a competitive royalties that you would get it, any of the major publishers as well. So I get paid more frequently and, and just as much in the fact that I don't have an agent also helps cause I don't have to pay an agent fee as well. So that's, that's a bonus, a working with them also really nice because certain publishers have cadences. So you have to be like, I'm very prolific. And most publishers wouldn't be able to keep up with a indie schedule that I have, but Amazon can. So I published three to four books with them every year. And then I still publish indie titles occasionally as well. Cause I want to keep that side a open as well. So I'm kind of a hybrid author, but most of my work comes out through Amazon.
Jeff (6m 23s):
And I can really understand that the decisions that they make are based on data, they're based on a lot of research, they test a lot of things. And so they're able to see what efforts yield to book sales. And so that is amazing. A lot of publishers don't have that visibility to see what they're, what, what effort and what strategy actually increases the number of sales. So all of those things said, I think it's really a wonderful publisher to have
Jesper (6m 52s):
Do it. Do you also have like a dedicated team of, you know, and as a dedicated editor and dedicated, covered of signs or, or are they more like menacing their pool of authors with a pool of resources? If you know what I mean?
Jeff (7m 5s):
They definitely use a pool of resources, independent contractors. So I have a editor, you know, assigned to me at Amazon, but then I have a team of, at a development editor for a copy editor for a proofreader that I work with the same people every time. And I do that by request because they know my body of work and they're able to help me see when I've made mistakes, which is frequently. Right. So that's helpful, but they also, you, you contact people to do cover design. So, I mean, I've worked with several different cover designers. I don't really have ultimate say in that, but I, you know, they often say, Hey, these are the three or two that we're looking at. Do you have a preference between them? So I do get to speak up at the beginning a, but we don't use the, this the same ones.
Jeff (7m 49s):
They, these are a variety of them to work with all of the different authors that they publish.
Jesper (7m 55s):
Right, right. You okay. And if a, some of our listeners, which I'm sure some will be interested in a way, how do people normally get picked up nowadays by Amazon publishing? Is it, it just based on when they see somebody has enough sales, they are reaching out or, or how, how does that work? Normally
Jeff (8m 15s):
Today, the way I was picked up was more how it was done in the past. That was over 10 years ago, it's much more traditional now. So they mostly work through agents who then will submit at all, not only to the big five, but also to Amazon publishing as well. So to get in there really having an agent is almost the only way. I mean, I'm sure there's other ways too, that they reach out to other authors that are established and invite them to come in as well. But a there, there definitely, as they were growing a w they were, they were at the one searching for authors and now authors are coming to them through agents for the most part.
Jesper (8m 51s):
Yeah. It's a wonderful, a first mover advantage. You can get some times
Jeff (8m 56s):
So, absolutely. And I feel very lucky that I was, I happened to be catching the wave when it happened and have had works already in, and I was writing a whole new series. So when they purchased my mirror with a series, they said, well, what else are you writing? And I told him about my next one, my mirror wind series. And they, they grabbed those to, so I'd signed a six books deal just right off the bat, which is kind of unusual that doesn't happen to everybody.
Jesper (9m 20s):
No, I can imagine. Yeah, that's a pretty good. So, but are you then also doing some of your own advertising or is Amazon taking care of all of the Amazon ads for you? And so on
Jeff (9m 31s):
A Amazon covers the advertising and the marketing for sure. And so all the resources that people can pay for today through KDP and things like that, we've been using it within a pub for years, and they even have more things that they can do than our, what we're available. So they can send targeted emails and things to past readers to make them aware of my books coming out. That's not something that's available through KDP. So they definitely have all of their tools plus all the tools that they are now a allowing indie authors too use. And so it, it, it's just neat to see how they've invented this ecosystem to make it possible for writers all over from, from all over the world, a to be able to make careers out of this.
Jeff (10m 13s):
And so it's just, it's, it's amazing. And I have a lot of friends in the, in the space as well and get it here, but what they're doing and what they're spending their money on in terms of marketing that I don't have to do, because Amazon's giving that to me is just part of being one of their authors. Right.
Jesper (10m 29s):
Are you running any sort of advertising besides what Amazon does? So you, are you completely leaving it? Everything to them? I doing like I'm thinking like BookBub ads or Facebook ads. So anything like that, or do you do any of
Jeff (10m 40s):
That? I, I don't, I've, I've tried different ones for my self published title's as well, but I found that just the machine than Amazon is that by the virtue of them selling my books, my indie titles get sucked into that machine. And so it, it makes it available for readers. Anyways, I've tried those different approaches. I know different people have. It's just not something I personally spend my own money on because I already have the benefits of being able to utilize it through Amazon.
Jesper (11m 13s):
Yeah. And I think over the years, I've also come to the realization more and more that a, if you can find a way to, well, some people call it a tickle the algorithm in Amazon. But if you could, if you couldn't find a way to get Amazon to just push you a book that is a million times easier than anything, you can do yourself basically
Jeff (11m 34s):
True. But I don't want to underestimate the importance of having a social media presence, having a newsletter list, being engaged with your fans, because that's something they appreciate. And a little bit of effort like creating a newsletter or responding to a message on Facebook or Twitter, or I'm on Instagram as well, and creates that relationship between the author and the reader much more so than when I was a kid growing up, or you'd have to write a letter and mail it to the publisher. And you would eventually maybe if you get to author who may eventually ride back or you'd might see them that a convention are, you might see in them in a book signing, the relationship is much more dynamic now. And I think that having a social media is, has a great enabler of that because it allows us as authors to be able to connect with those fans.
Jeff (12m 22s):
And the more, a connected they are to you, the more they like you as a person, the more they're going to stay on top of your re re release schedule. And they're going to be wanting to pre-order in and by things coming off so that that's outside the algorithm's, you cannot overstate the importance of word of mouth and how your loyal fans are your most likely source of a future leaders more than an algorithm, I think.
Jesper (12m 47s):
Oh yeah. Yeah. For sure. No doubt about that icon. I also saw that you are also running a, a, like a newsletter and you have a mini mail list and I sought out on your website as well. How, how, how effective do you find your email list in terms of, you know, generating sales and so on? I, are you using that whenever you have a new book, you're sending out an email and do you then see that convert to sales or, or do you have more Relias as you said before on Amazon pushing things?
Jeff (13m 12s):
Well, I, I know Amazon con their email list is a lot bigger than mine, so I don't know how much, I don't know how much my newsletter does, but I know that I know, for example, when I send out a newsletter about a pre-order available for a new book that I do, I immediately see a pre preorders going in. So it, it absolutely helps, but I'm not going to a kid myself so that the 800 pound gorilla is not me. And, and in terms of, of, of, of moving the needle. But again, I know my fans like hearing from me, they, they respond back to those e-mails, we, we, I, I respond back to them. I try to be very open and available to my, to my readers and let them know that I'm not, I'm not afraid to talk to them, not afraid to interact with them.
Jesper (13m 57s):
I think that's a good point. We had actually a podcast episode probably by the time this goes out, it's probably like a month, two months ago or something like that. But autumn and I was discussing the effectiveness of social media in today's landscape in that episode. And I, I do think it's a bit of a difficult one because I fully agree with what you're saying in a sense of interacting with readers and people and responding to them if they tweet at you and you're you send it back a, a, a reply on. So I think that is really important, like you were saying as well. A, but the thing that I am wondering about when, what we discussed quite lengthy in that episode was that it really worth one thing is like somebody tweets out at you all are sense of Facebook messages and you apply it to that sort of one thing.
Jesper (14m 43s):
And another thing is being actively engaging and trying to build up some sort of a, let's say using as a marketing tool to try to get sales on so on. Whereas I'm not so sure that that part is very efficient anymore. I I'm really not. So convinced that because social media is also a time suck, right? You can spend so much time and generating new posts or a new content to post there and whatnot. And I'm not really sure that it helps so much when it comes to sale. I think you are you're time is probably better spent writing and releasing a new book, to be
Jeff (15m 16s):
Honest. No, I, I would agree with you. And, and if you've been on social media at all, you've seen, especially brand new authors, you using that too, to market a book in, and people don't pay attention to that, what they pay attention to a friend who's recommending you're book. So yeah, I, I use social media and let my fans know when my books are on sale. That's another awesome thing Amazon does for me. They put my books on sale regularly, even after the initial launch, it could be years later, there's still a marketing. My releases, my fans would want to know that they're on sale for 99 cents or a, a, you know, a, a British pound, right. They want to know that. So I want to make sure that they're aware of it.
Jeff (15m 57s):
And then I find my fans will often forward and boosts that signal to saying, oh, this is on sale. And they share that with their friend. So that's, that's effective much more effective than, than me doing it because I don't, I mean, I, I've never bought, brought in a book because of the author reached out to me. I've, I've, I've, I've, I've bought a book because my friends and my author friends are recommending books to read. So that's, that's the power of it. I think people can definitely try to beat that too much. And what's more important is just being genuine and real in your social media and not just posting about your books, but posting about other things. I, all my Instagram account, I do, I do photos. I D that's a different thing than what I do on my Twitter.
Jeff (16m 39s):
And so it, I just try to use the different social media is depending on the purpose of it, but it's not just for promoting a, a new release.
Jesper (16m 51s):
Hmm... No, I get you a and I was also thinking a, just shifting gears slightly here, because I noticed that as well on your website, that you have a book called your first million words, a where you are describing your journey to publication. And, and as far as I could tell, at least I think that's the only a non-fiction book. If you had, at least this was the only one I found on your website, but why did you decide to write that one? I was a bit curious about that.
Jeff (17m 14s):
It's a, it's a great question. I get asked so often, you know, I get, I get email request from authors that are starting out students in college, high school students. I'm part of teen author bootcamp as a player, I get asked for advice a lot. And so over the years I had written articles T which I put it on my blog, but I kept getting asked, like in, in speaking appearances, tell us your author journey, tell us how you got where you are. And I, my story's kind of a different and unique and a lot of twists and turns. And it that I think, I thought it would be helpful to other who are beginning their own journey. And so, I mean like many I've read Stephen King's on writing.
Jeff (17m 56s):
I've, I've read a lot of different things all on the craft, but over the years, like looking at Intel and then in doing this, you know, dealing with the discouragement of getting rejected so many times, there's a lot of aspects to it that I think weren't being covered. And so I just, I, you know, I've, after having shared in speeches and talks my story so many times, I said, you know what I mean, just going to start writing these things down in a book, it's probably only gonna be like 70 pages. And it ended up being almost, you know, a lot more than that. And I just, I wanted it. I wanted it to inspire. I wanted it to inspire future authors. I wanted them to see the good, the bad and the cringe-worthy right.
Jeff (18m 37s):
There's things that, of the mistakes I've made along the, the, the, the, the road that it's like, look, you know, I didn't get this right on the first try. I, I mean, I, here's what I did. Here's how I plotted my own course when, when nobody was telling me yes, and everyone was telling me know, and I just want it to give it, give some of the hope that if they tried not necessarily what I did, but just see that they're going to have their own journey. And I just felt like sharing that experience. In fact, I got a text from a, a, a high school buddy of mine just last night who finished your first million words, and he's a high school teacher down in LA. And he was like, wow. It's like, I knew you were in high school. I had no idea of these things that you went through.
Jeff (19m 18s):
Thank you for being candid with us on your failures, as well as your successes, because you learn so much that, those things. And that's, that's what I wanted it to do with that book.
Jesper (19m 31s):
Yeah. And I also really appreciate it because you, you, you are very much giving back. And I really like that a lot. Also, when, when I reached out a, regarding this podcast episode, you replied quite quickly that you were very happy to come on for it and for a chat here. So, and so I think it's a wonderful once people get some, some success and they sell a lot of books that they don't sort of forget to give back to everybody else. Who's not at that level yet. So I do it really appreciate it. I think it's a very good thing.
Jeff (19m 58s):
You know, what it feels like when I created, started creating my own magazine deep magic, I would reach out to authors that I admired and, and, and hearing back, just hearing back anything meant so much to me. So I still remember what that was like, and you were a very courteous, yes, we are with your request. So I do this, this, this kind of a thing frequently, so, and I'm happy to do it.
Jesper (20m 18s):
No, that, that's, that's a wonderful, but we also need to talk a bit of a fantasy here. Of course, 'cause a, this is The Am Writing Fantasy Podcast. And I saw that you initially inspiration as well was from this Shinara, a Chronicles by Terry Brooks'. So T tell me a bit about that.
Jeff (20m 38s):
Absolutely. I was not an avid reader until probably high school, but for me it began that kind of a desire to become a writer began. I was in middle school and it started with Terry Brooks' book a from his Shannara a universe. And it w you know, for me, I would pick up a book and I would immediately start to try to predict the endings. And most of the time I was right. And so it, it was, it just, it, to me, it, it was hard to find a book that challenged my imagination. And, and again, I, I wasn't reading Tolkien back then. I was just trying a lot of different things. And it was that Terry books, books that really kind of kickstarted to me in, in me the desire to be able to do that.
Jeff (21m 20s):
He happened to come to Silicon valley multiple times for a book signings at the local as some of the local bookstores. So I had the opportunity to meet him. And so he really played a role in, in, in, in, in terms of my creativity of, of having unpredictable plots, having strong characters, having a lot of action. That's a kind of thing that I like to write good versus evil. Those themes and stories have always appealed to me. And so he became somebody that I looked up to well, as an adult, I found that he was doing a writing seminar in north of San Francisco, and I had the opportunity to spend an entire day with him.
Jeff (21m 60s):
And you can just imagine how that affected me the chance to, he's going to read my writing. I'm going to be able to learn from him for a whole day. That was really a turning point moment for me. So yes, it began when I was in middle school, but he's influenced me even until today. In fact, I was so happy when my publisher approached him to do a little blurb for my newest series, the first Sergeant times. And he agreed to read the first book and do a blurb for it. I mean, I was over the moon, as you can imagine that somebody that I looked up too, I'd studied under a, was, I was now supporting it. I've been to a comic con event with him and up onstage with them. So it's been a fantastic thing.
Jeff (22m 41s):
The influence that he's been in my life from the earliest of times, sparking that creativity within me, and then being able to watch his career and see how he's handled it and, and, and to learn from him in person was just amazing.
Jesper (22m 55s):
Yeah. How did it feel getting critique on your work far from him? How did that feel at that point in time?
Jeff (23m 1s):
Well, it was terrible. All right, because we all had to submit a story to him in advance. And I wasn't the first one that he began the critique with. And, and he was very, very candid and very pointed with his critique. You, it, it wasn't like a, I'm just going to try and make you feel good. He was challenging what people were saying. He was showing gaps in logic. He was showing where things weren't working. And I was starting to just sweat, like, oh my goodness, this is going to be horrible. And when he got to mine, he asked some questions, he challenged me, but I was able to answer it. And he didn't rip my, my things apart at all. And I was like, well, that's interesting. And then when we, we had it a little lunch break, we're in this cafe, buy this book at this bookstore.
Jeff (23m 46s):
And I was sitting there and I was watching him get his sandwich. And I was in my mind, I'm a come sit by me, come sit by me. And he did, he came and sat by me. So I was just the two of us. And he told me during that lunch, he was like, Jeff was like, you're the best writer in this class. He was like, I could really see that U you have, you can have a future with us and talk about validation. I, I was like, wow. It was like to hear that from you're, you're a superstar. It meant the world to me. And it, it, it, but it, what that did is that it actually motivated me to throw away all the fantasy books that I had written prior to that. And to say, you know what, I've learned a lot from him. I've learned a lot through my magazine. I'm going to start fresh with something brand new.
Jeff (24m 27s):
And that was my mirror wood series. And that's the one coincidentally, after having written and thrown away a million words, that was the book that a launched my success.
Jesper (24m 40s):
So, yeah, it must've been extremely transformative as far as I can also hear from what you're saying, having a chat with him there, and my God, how lucky that he just sat down at your table.
Jeff (24m 50s):
I know, I know it just was one of those things. Like, it was just meant to be a again, if I had the pleasure of meeting him since then, and it's just been a wonderful thing to, to know him.
Jesper (25m 2s):
So did you fall in love with a fantasy genre from reading those specific books? A, was that sort of the trigger?
Jeff (25m 10s):
Well, the vet, we all did help, but to be honest, the first books that I wrote while I was in high school, we're more thrillers, a more, a political thrillers. And, but I, when I came to realize is how much research you had to do to make something accurate in today's world. It took a raw, less research to make a fantasy world, because you could create the, the landscape, the geography, you weren't constrained by historical things. And so for me, a lot of my inspirations for my fantasy novels have come from periods of history in our own planet. Sometimes medieval Europe, I've written a series on ancient China. I've done lots of different kinds of series that I can kind of dive into.
Jeff (25m 53s):
It kind of take something that interested me from history, and then it kind of repackage it and make it my own. And that's what I really loved about fantasy as it's not that it, the lack of research it's just allowed me to combine different elements that I didn't have to worry about somebody coming back and saying, no, this isn't the way it really works. Like you can't say that to a fantasy author. Cause you know, in my world, apple trees produce in what's in what, twice a year. And no one can tell me I'm wrong because I invented apple trees that way. So
Jesper (26m 26s):
Yeah, no, I fully agree. I sometimes a hear on other podcasts as well when some of those may be a thriller auteurs and authors and so on. Talk about how, you know, Rita's come back to them and say, well, this gun, actually, it doesn't work that way and so on. And I, every time I'm just like, I'm so happy. I don't have that problem. Exactly, exactly. Well, of course we, we do still need to think a bit about the weapon's we use and the Armas, we used a a, unless you sort of create something that nobody has ever heard about. We, we still need to think a bit about that and not make it a unrealistic in that sense, but, we do have an easier life.
Jeff (27m 2s):
It's it's true. And, and to me there's a lot of fun in researching things. I saw some great, a German videos of medieval Knights for my first Argentine series. Like how sturdy the Armour wise, how would they get it? How would they stand up against arrows and swords and things and watching a film footage of Armour taking a beating, or weapons' taking a beating, see, and that to me, and it's not even research, that's just fun. And so I like doing that stuff to make my stories as realistic as possible, but then you got to create your magic system and that's, that's part of the fun too.
Jesper (27m 39s):
That's the best part. Yeah. Yeah. I also was, I can't remember anymore because there's many, many years ago, so I cannot remember if it was on one of the network shows or if it was just YouTube videos of whatever I can't remember anymore, but I was one time where they were this discussing whether or not like medieval Knight, you could resist a shut from like a musket and, and the, the, almost that they created now, the musculature right through them. Ah, but then during this show, they talk to like a, a, a blacksmith who we specialized in creating medieval llamas. Like they were created back then, and then they got him in the show to Smith, such an AMA, and then they shot at it and the bullet did not go
Jeff (28m 27s):
Through it. Yeah. So there's all sorts of things. That was pretty interesting. I found was one of the tickets and I actually used to it in my new series that they would have these trials between nights and they wouldn't, you know, they wouldn't even wear armor that just sword against the board. And, and so you imagine getting cut up by a sword? Well, they would use moldy bread to put on the wound and I'm like moldy bread. It's kind of like penicillin, you know, I, my, they figured that stuff out, they figured out that moldy bread helped keep preventive women from getting infected. I'm like, that's cool. I've got to use that if my series, which I did it.
Jesper (29m 1s):
Yeah. It's so cool. Yeah. And, and I'm also, I love listening to, I don't know if you ever listen to Dan Carlin, so a hardcore history podcast, a but that is such, such a good podcast. And I remember some point when he was talking about medieval Knight's as well as, and he was saying something like, they were like tanks, you know, it, when you meet a, a medieval Knight on a battlefield, you just can't, you can't do anything. So you saw it, it will not penetrate. If you could just hit him and it hit him and hit him and it doesn't help
Jeff (29m 28s):
You and hope he falls down because other than that you're toast. Yeah. Yeah.
Jesper (29m 35s):
So that was pretty cool. Well-
Jeff (29m 37s):
It, it was exactly what was that. It was that kind of a theme that kinda of medieval night that inspired by new series. Cause I really wanted to write a story about Knights, but from their point of view and the training they'd have to go through the armor, they'd have to wear how hard it was. And some of the books I read from, you know, accounts written from the, you know, 12 hundreds, 11 hundreds, and it just fascinating. You send me those little details that we as authors weave into our stories, that when it is often, when people read my books, they don't realize this is real. This is a scene that actually happened in history. I'm not just making it up.
Jesper (30m 12s):
Do you always go with some, something from real history that inspires you or do you all, so something sometimes just make something completely random up.
Jeff (30m 21s):
Most, most of the books that I've written have come from something that inspired me from history or from Dungeons and dragons, a, a big role playing a fanatic, especially when I was in high school and in college. And so those story elements are, those are my two biggest sources of inspiration. And mostly because history is so unpredictable and D and D is so unpredictable. Like when I would play with my friends, they would come up with things that I did not anticipate or expect, which is a great thing to learn is a writer because it's the unanticipated that really delight's a reader. It, if they've like, just like I had a problem with always predicting what was going to happen next, one of the great things as finding ways to be unpredictable and to make your plot twist such that people don't see it coming, then it just deletes a certain part of our brains when something like that happens.
Jeff (31m 14s):
And that's one of our, and you go to our core competencies as a writer.
Jesper (31m 21s):
Yeah. It it's, it's like a double-edged sword, that stuff. Because a, I also feel like after, after becoming an author and writing books and stories, you know, when I watch like a murder mystery show or whatever, I like it. Not every time of course, but a lot of the times I'm able to foresee who to murder is Willow ahead of time when I'm watching like a TV show on Netflix or something. And it's sort of, I wouldn't say it destroys those shows, but, but it's a different experience watching that kind of thing nowadays, when you a story-telling you yourself compared to when you worked, but I don't know if you have that experience.
Jeff (31m 56s):
I can completely relate too. You Yesper because I I've had that too. Book reading for me has not been as enjoyable in recent years as it was in the past because my author brain can't help, but want to make it better, or I predict what's happening because I see the clues and I piece it together. And so I tend to read more biographies or other things that are outside of my genre, just because I need something to trick my brain, to stop me from trying to predict everything that's happening. And I just find, find more history or biographies gives me that then sitting down with a novel, when I can find an author that's new, like one of my new favorite as Anthony, Ryan in the UK, a when I do find some, somebody who's so good at his craft and can create a world and do things and I can't see what's coming, I can't see where he's doing it.
Jeff (32m 48s):
I just get transported. It brings me back to those days with Terry books again. And unfortunately its more rare than come in now. And it's just part of the process of being an author of your, you, you, you just start figuring stuff out easier.
Jesper (33m 2s):
It, it is. Yes, absolutely. And I also feel like a, one of the things Autumn and I are doing with our books that we really tried and purposely to craft it so that you won't see what is it coming at the end. So we try to with all the books. So we were trying to see if we can sort of make twists always in the end so that you didn't see it because I really feel like personally, at least that's the kind of fantasy books that I like. I like when something happens at the end that I, I couldn't work it out a but at the same time. And maybe that was what you were trying to say a bit there as well, is that if I look across like fantasy books in general, many of them feel to me, at least in not that I've read all of them, of course, but, but the ones I've read a lot of the time, they feel like very, very straight forward.
Jesper (33m 48s):
Like it's just like you go on this quest thing and at the end you fight the dragon or whatever and then yay. You, you won. And then, I mean, not that its not, it can be a good story. Of course it could be incredibly well-written. But I just feel like if we can work in some stuff that may be normally belongs a bit more over in another like thrillers and we can, if we can work that a bit into the fantasy, I personally at least feel that it becomes more interesting.
Jeff (34m 17s):
A and I agree and that's the kind of books that I like to ride, but even within fantasy you can have things that are more action, adventure, Ew, there's a romance fantasy. And those readers expect a certain kind of trope that, that goes with it. So you, you have to understand kind of what your, what your market is, but I'm always looking for that a different angle of how can I like in my book, the Queen's poisoner, I made my protagonist eight years old and that puts all a whole series of constraints. Right? Cause he's not going to pick up a sword in and defeat the bad guy. He's got a defeat him with his head, but an eight year old can't outsmart as an adult, unless there's another adult helping the eight-year-old.
Jeff (35m 1s):
So I like putting together these ideas that kind of create a totally different kind of a story than what people are expecting again. But those with those twists and turns put in there that make you want to keep turning the pages and say, what, how was this kid going to get out of these Kings? This King's clutches, you know, but the cards or so stacked against them. So I like looking for those different angles and not just having the, the stamp using the standard tropes, but often flipping them. No, no, I agree.
Jesper (35m 30s):
And is that a book then written for a mature audience? I mean for adults or is it more like a YA?
Jeff (35m 37s):
It's kind of both by audience range and I, I know this from my, my Amazon re results. I have readers who are in eight years old and I of readers that are over 80 years old. So I I've got, that's a good way. That's a great problem to have. And so it, you can't really classify it as why, because there is a very adult characters and there as well, but I don't, I don't ride with a lot of adult themes. There's no sex or swearing in, in my books, but, but that's just the kind of things that I like to enjoy myself, but yeah, people of all ages can, can get sucked into it and including my own kids and including my own inlaws. So I've got a range on both sides. So my, my father-in-law's begging for my new book, which comes out next week. So like I can't wait till this book comes out.
Jeff (36m 17s):
So it's good to see that, that enthusiasm.
Jesper (36m 21s):
Yeah, absolutely. But do you find a, the more books that you write at it becomes more and more difficult to come up with new, let's say interesting takes on things or, or, or, or does just the fact that you go into a different historical, a like theme, does that automatically bring some new twists and turns so to speak into your books? Or how do you feel about that?
Jeff (36m 45s):
So, well, I kinda of two different processes. So like when I'm writing a book, my focus is on that one. And, and if a new idea comes to me for another series, while I'm working on that book, I'll send myself an e-mail a kind of capture some of the idea and I'll just file it away and I'll just let it kind of incubate in the back of my head. But I don't spend a lot in my conscious time processing that new idea. I want to stay focused on the idea that I have. So that as I'm thinking about the next few chapters, I always kind of plot off a story arc of where is this series going, but I don't plot all the twists and turns in advance. So I spent my time thinking about is I'm maybe I might need a, a N in, in, or a CASEL or a certain place in as I go in.
Jeff (37m 30s):
And as I research that, that would give me a new ideas that I can weave into that story, add some twists to it. But meanwhile, in the background, I've got these other ideas that are cooking and I worried that am I going to run out of ideas? And I can tell you after all these years, my, my, my idea folder and my inbox is getting longer, not shorter. And so a new ideas come to me all the time, often multiple ideas while I'm working on a series. So if I get three new ideas for every series exponentially, that's a problem. Like I'm gonna die before I'm gonna write all of the story ideas that I have. So then I have to really be thoughtful about what am I going to work on next?
Jeff (38m 12s):
What's that next adventure going to be? What do I feel the most passionate about? Cause I've got all of these ideas to choose from what are the ones that are the most exciting to me.
Jesper (38m 21s):
Yeah. And I think that's actually a good point. A it's one that I've also started thinking more and more about in terms of, because my idea for all of those also a very, very long, and it does not get shorter. Like you S but I, I think it's a, it's a good point. The fact that once you start working on a series, you, you will probably, well, some are some for some people take longer, obviously, but your probably locked in four a year, at least a day. Some people might working on it even longer than that. But I think there is a good point in this choice that you're making, which one do we actually want to ride? And what, and, and what do you then choose out of that list?
Jesper (39m 3s):
Write a book. I think, I mean, it does not, I don't think it's easy.
Jeff (39m 7s):
No, no, no. It's not a bit. It, for me, it is the key decision maker is, do I have a fire in the belly four? It am I excited? So, right. So I'm working on a series. That's going to be coming out next year. And before I started working on it, I shared three ideas with my wife. And I just talked to her about all three of them, just independently. Here's the three ideas for three different series that I can do. And she said judging by the, by the look on your face, you're the most excited about this one? And I'm like your right. Like, there is a very practical and pragmatic reasons why I could have worked on the other to, but she could tell the, and excitement enthusiasm was there.
Jeff (39m 51s):
And that's gotta be a key ingredient. Cause I, I have readers that say, Hey, go back to your, you know, an early, early, early series you self-publish before a mirror would, I said, I have zero interest in going back to that series. I have no fire in the belly, four. It, it would be painful for me to try to go back and try to write more in that world because I had originally designed like maybe a 12 book series. And I have since come to learn that most publishers don't like 12 books series because your readership keeps getting smaller and smaller. The further out you go. And so it's not, they're, they're, they're, they're good for like Robert Jordan's and others, but, but most of us can't a command the attention in that long and they'd preferred trilogies, or maybe for maybe I've done five a month and her advice was spot on and that's the one I'm writing right now.
Jeff (40m 40s):
And she was right. I am still excited and passionate about writing this book. And then I'll make the decision as I get near the end of the final book. What am I going to go back to either of those two other ideas or did something else come along that I'm now passionate and excited about it? That's it gotta be a key ingredient for it?
Jesper (40m 60s):
Yeah, absolutely. And maybe a way of had to watch the end. Jeff, I'm thinking if I, if we could like invent a time machine here and a, you could go into a time machine and you can travel back to the earlier version of yourself when you were just starting out on your publishing journey. If you had to, you only have time in the, in the past year for, for saying like one advice to yourself, and then you're going to sit back right here and depressant. So what would be the one thing that you will tell you a past selves as a piece of advice?
Jeff (41m 34s):
You know, I've, I've, I've wondered that at times, you know, it because, you know, if I look at my journey, what would I have wanted to know the most that would have kept me motivated? Because my skills of changed my interests have changed. I've grown as a writer since becoming a full-time author a lot has changed. And you can't really summarize that in a, in a sentence or two, but the advice, if I could like flip out of a, at a time machine in and talk to myself while I was it Intel, or if I was in high school, I would, I would, I would have just told myself it's gonna happen. Like you're gonna get there. You're gonna become a full-time author some day. But I wouldn't tell me how, because would be no way to summarize that the up and down experience and talk about in my memoir it to the point where that, that self could understand what I was talking about.
Jeff (42m 21s):
But, but, but I think it would be motivating to me to know that, you know, that I made it, that I made that happen. And that's the, that's the advice I'd like to give writers today. It's like, like, if you could imagine that you would succeed in anything that you did, what would you dare to do? Like if you knew that there was no chance you could fail, that you would eventually succeed, what would you dare to do? And I, I just knowing that by daring to be an author that I would achieve it someday. And that, if that, if I, if I don't know, if I'd tell myself that I would be more popular than I could have even imagined back then, like I I've exceeded way more than I ever thought I would of never thought I would of deserved.
Jeff (43m 4s):
But if I could just tell myself you're going to make it, that would have a, that would've been very inspiring to me. And I hope it's inspiring to your listeners to, to put in the time it takes to write those books in a lonely room without anybody else there, unless you've got a co-writer it's up to you by yourself to pull it off. Well, but to know that you're going to make it, you'd make it worth it.
Jesper (43m 28s):
You just don't give up. I think that's a, that's a very good a point to the conversation on M, but Jeff also wanted to ask you if, if a, if people want to check out more about you, where, where do they go?
Jeff (43m 44s):
My website is Jeff Wheeler dot com. I have all of my different worlds there. I have a different page from the different worlds that talks about the settings and the magic and the kind of thing. So that way, if people want to explore like, oh, I may be more interested in this one. This one's got a more, a medieval feeling. This ones got it. More of a steam punk feeling. This ones got you. You can kind of look at it that way. I always get asked, like, where do I start? You've got over 30 books. Where do I start? The page that gets viewed the most on my website is one call it the one called a reading order where I suggest if, if I had a pick, this is the order. I would read my books. And cause a lot of my stories are tied together.
Jeff (44m 24s):
There's a little hints from one that leak into another. And so if you want to capture all those nuggets and little Easter eggs, you would, if you read it, it in the order, I suggest you, you probably maximize that the most, but that's, that's what I would suggest.
Jesper (44m 42s):
That's so cool. And I did, I can confirm the, those well page's you have on your website. It's really cool. There's a nice images and everything as well. So it looks really good. And a, of course, a reading about some, a fantasy setting who doesn't want to do that. It's a, it's a wonderful, thank you. So thank you so much for coming on a Geoff. I really appreciate it.
Jeff (45m 8s):
It's my pleasure to be here.
Jesper (45m 9s):
Okay. And next week, Autumn will be back and I'm prerecording this, so I'm not quite sure what we're going to talk about, but the tune-in.
Narrator (45m 20s):
If you like what are you just heard, there's a few things you can do to SUPPORT THE AM WRITING FANTASY PODCAST. Please tell a fellow author about the show and visit us at Apple podcast and leave a rating and review. You can also join Autumn and Jesper on patreon.com/AmWritingFantasy. For as little as a dollar a month, you'll get awesome rewards and keep The Am Writing Fantasy Podcast going. Stay safe out there and see you next Monday.
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